Crossings looks to purchase iconic dome church
Crossings Church announced Sunday it is moving forward in talks to open a satellite campus at First Christian Church’s iconic dome building in Oklahoma City, which has been under threat of demolition.
First Christian Church, with its distinctive white egg-shaped dome, was one of the city’s biggest churches when it opened at NW 36 and Walker Avenue in 1956, led by the popular pastor Bill Alexander. The property was put up for sale two years ago with a dwindling congregation still worshiping there.
The Rev. John Malget, senior pastor of First Christian Church, said the congregation voted Sunday morning to allow the church's board of directors to proceed with negotiations to sell the church to Crossings.
He said the church’s Sunday attendance fluctuates from 40 to 70 each week and about 100 people attended Easter services on Sunday.
Malget said First Christian is selling only the property west of the creek, while the church is retaining everything on the east side of the creek.
Malget said he incorporated the pending transaction into his Easter message. “This will allow the building to be resurrected for the use in which it was intended as a church,” Malget said. “It will allow the congregation of First Christian Church to also receive a resurrection as we move forward with the call that God has on our congregation.”
Marty Grubbs, senior pastor at Crossings Church, told his congregation the announcement was being made simultaneously at the two churches. Crossings leaders have considered such a move for months as a way to expand their mission into the urban core of the city.
“A year ago, I made a phone call to an elder, we had the same idea, we gave some thought to it, and then it died,” Grubbs told his congregation on Sunday.
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“A few weeks ago, in a strange turn of events, I can now tell you we’re pursuing the opportunity to purchase the iconic First Christian Church (at) 36th and Walker.”
The congregation applauded the announcement, which Grubbs noted was a happy moment because he was unsure how they might react. He said the possibility of opening a satellite campus at the historic church is both a “great opportunity” to expand their mission at a prominent location and to also invest back in their community.
“We’re going to spend a great deal of time in the coming months evaluating the opportunities,” Grubbs said. “In the next few weeks you will be invited to a series of meetings ask questions and get your guidance.”
Blake Bastin, chief financial officer at Crossings, said the two churches have agreed on initial terms for a sale, which would only include the 12 acres that is home to First Christian Church and the nearby outdoor amphitheater. The sale would not include nearby instructional buildings that are leased to Trinity School or acres of undeveloped residentially zoned land.
The property was listed on Preservation Oklahoma’s 2019 Endangered Properties list and former Ward 2 councilman Ed Shadid had warned earlier this year he had received warning the Mid-Century landmark was being eyed by a buyer for demolition and commercial development.
In response, the Oklahoma City Preservation Commission started the process of up-zoning the property to historic landmark status to stop demolition – a move opposed by the church and its attorney, David Box. The entire property went on the National Register of Historic Places as First Christian Church Historic District in 2011, but that alone cannot stop demolition.
Following the church service announcement, Crossings released a statement confirming the purchase effort, adding it will not demolish the current structure but will continue to operate it as a church.
Lynne Rostochil, whose architect grandfather R. Duane Conner designed the church, led a petition campaign signed by more than 5,700 people asking the city council to take a stand on the church’s future. She led a similar effort last year with the Donnay Building on Classen Circle that led to Braum’s Ice Cream & Dairy dropping its plans to tear that structure down for a new store.
“I think it’s awesome, it is going to be a great fit,” Rostochil said. “Another church going in where a church has been is a great move. They’re a great congregation and they are in good shape to take care of the property.”
Crossings started as Westridge Hills Church at 2600 NW 55 in 1955. The church expanded and was renamed Belle Isle Community Church in 1988, but then purchased 77 acres at 14600 N Portland after being unable to expand at their original location. The church was renamed again, as Crossings, as it opened at its new home in 1999 with 3,100 in attendance.
The First Christian Church property, if purchased, will be the site of Crossings' third satellite. The church opened its first satellite in 2016 at 1500 W Covell in Edmond. That satellite hosts worship services in a free-standing building that Crossings built across from Edmond's Mitch Park.
The church also has a satellite at Joseph Harp Correctional Facility, which it started in spring 2018.
Crossings, led by the Rev. Marty Grubbs, the church's longtime senior minister, celebrated its 60th anniversary in March.
At the time of the opening of the Edmond satellite, Grubbs said Crossings membership was 7,000.
The church's main campus includes the affiliated Crossings Christian School, a private Christian school, opened in 2001. The school offers classes for youths in pre-K through 12th grades. In addition, Crossings operates Crossings Community Center and Clinic at 10255 N Pennsylvania.
Crossings is affiliated with the Church of God faith movement based in Anderson, Indiana. The movement has 2,200 congregations across the U.S. and Canada, plus a global presence in more than 80 countries.
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›